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150,000 Bangladeshi tea employees strike in opposition to dollar-a-day wages

Tea employees from over 200 tea plantations in Bangladesh protest demanding a elevate of their wages on Saturday August 13, 2022. — AFP

DHAKA: Almost 150,000 employees at greater than 200 Bangladeshi tea plantations went on strike Saturday to demand a 150 per cent rise to their dollar-a-day wages, which researchers say are among the many lowest on this planet.

Most tea employees within the overwhelmingly Muslim nation are low-caste Hindus, the descendants of labourers delivered to the plantations by colonial-era British planters.

The minimal wage for a tea plantation employee within the nation is 120 taka a day — about $1.25 at official charges, however solely simply over a greenback on the free market.

One employee mentioned that was barely sufficient to purchase meals, not to mention different requirements.

“These days we will not even afford coarse rice for our household with this quantity,” mentioned Anjana Bhuyian, 50.

“A wage of at some point cannot purchase a litre of edible oil. How can we then even take into consideration our vitamin, remedy, or kids’s schooling?” she instructed AFP.

Unions are demanding a rise to 300 taka a day, with inflation rising and the forex depreciating, and mentioned that employees within the nation’s 232 tea gardens started a full-scale strike on Saturday, after 4 days of two-hour stoppages.

“Almost 150,000 tea employees have joined the strike immediately,” mentioned Sitaram Bin, a committee member of the Bangladesh Tea Staff’ Union.

“No tea employee will pluck tea leaves or work within the leaf processing vegetation so long as the authority does not pay heed to our calls for,” he instructed AFP.

Plantation homeowners have supplied a rise of 14 taka a day, after an 18-taka rise final 12 months and M. Shah Alom, chairman of the Bangladesh Tea Affiliation, mentioned operators had been “going by way of troublesome occasions with revenue declining in current occasions”.

“The price of manufacturing is rising. Our bills have elevated as the worth of fuel, fertiliser and diesel have gone up,” he instructed AFP.

Researchers say tea employees — who stay in a number of the nation’s most distant areas — have been systematically exploited by the business for many years.

“Tea employees are like modern-day slaves,” mentioned Philip Acquire, director of the Society for Setting and Human Improvement, a analysis group, who has written books on tea employees.

“The plantation homeowners have hijacked the minimal wage authorities and stored the wages a number of the lowest on this planet.”

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